A casting assistant who has helped place child actors in well known Hollywood movies like Super 8, Cheaper By The Dozen 2 and The School Of Rock has been outed as a registered sex offender convicted of kidnapping and molesting a 7-year-old boy back in 1996.
Jason James Murphy, 35, managed to keep this a secret from colleagues simply by using the professional name Jason James. His colleagues had no way of knowing his shady past, which is why most are in utter disbelief over the news.
“It’s shocking and it’s devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe,” said renown director/producer J.J. Abrams, who most recently worked with Murphy on Super 8. “To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable.”
What’s unthinkable is what went down back in 1996, when Murphy was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for molesting a 7-year-old boy and later kidnapping him for a Lynwood elementary school in Washington, D.C. According to The Seattle Times, Murphy was a camp counselor when he met the boy and was welcomed into this boy’s family with open arms. But they eventually suspected molestation and so a police investigation began, ending with Murphy turning himself in and then being released on bail. The following month, he disguised himself as a woman and lured the child from school, then flew with him to New York City. (A hotel worker called 911 after recognizing Murphy and the boy from America’s Most Wanted.)
Murphy served five years in prison, underwent sex-offender counseling and then moved to California in 2005, where he was registered as a sex offender under his full name, Jason James Murphy. Law requires offenders to notify the state within five days of any change or aliases, but Murphy dropped his last name and neglected to tell anyone. Which is why his colleagues had no reason to believe this man named Jason James was a sex offender. (The Seattle Times writes that a search of court records and interviews with associates found no complaints that Murphy had acted inappropriately with any minor in his casting business.)
Of course, the most disturbing part about this story aside from Murphy’s past is the fact that a registered sex offender has spent the past decade working directly with children. And that nobody had any idea! It’s chilling to think of what could have been, and it’ll be interesting to see if anyone comes forward with any claims now that the story has come to light. April Webster, a casting director on Super 8 who hired Murphy as an assistant to help cast children in the film, said she was “shocked and disturbed” when she learned of Murphy’s background but that he was never alone with children while in their offices.
Paramount Studio, where Murphy worked as a freelancer, said it would change its screening process as a result. “Moving forward, we…will also conduct background checks on all freelance employees, full time and part time, who work with minors on our production,” a studio rep said.
With the whole Penn State sex scandal fresh on people’s minds, you can’t help but be concerned when reading about Murphy. We can only hope for a best-case scenario here though I can only imagine how parents of these child actors must be feeling right now. Paul Stern, an attorney who has prosecuted sex crimes for 30 years, sums it up well; he told The Seattle Times, “The mere fact that he is convicted of this and is a registered sex offender should not in and of itself cause people phenomenal concern. It should get people’s attention, and people should pay attention just as you would if you hire a baby-sitter or go to Penn State University.”